Introduction: Boat & Trailer Into Tiny House : the Model

About: Industrial Designer, Prototype maker.

This is the story of a tiny man with a big dream.
This story starts out sadly, as this tiny man had recently been divorced and was left only with a leaky boat, its trailer and a kitten. He had no home, and he had no hope. While sleeping under the stars, he had a dream of how he could create a home for himself with what he had and a few key additions.

In his dream, the wind blew the boat in the air and it flipped over and lost its upper deck, seats and motor, and it settled back down on top of the trailer upside down, The next thing that happened was a plywood box, bounded by metal uprights appeared between the boat and trailer. Next the most amazing thing of all occurred, the boat rose up on the uprights and walls folded up to meet it. A door opened and:

A Tiny House is Born

Inspired by his dream, he sold the outboard, and all the trim he could and began to acquire metal tubing and wood for his transformation project. With scissors, a hacksaw, soldering iron, hot knives and some work with screws, he was able to modify the boat and trailer to work with each other in an entirely new way.

Windows from photo by Milos Jovanovic Lonely Cat

Step 1:

Design Challenge:
Reuse old outboard motor boat and trailer. Find Highest and best use.


Repurpose into highly mobile 160 square foot tiny house.

Background. My neighbor collects derelict outboard motor boats. Turns out they are ubiquitous and difficult to either make seaworthy or dispose of.

Thus the idea of what to do with these unloved boats.

I have been intrigued with the tiny house movement and applaud that the world is willing to downsize. Sadly the current designs seem to be to place the full weight of a house built to carpentry standards. This makes these vehicles very heavy and challenging on the road for a variety of reasons. It seems that in embracing the new, designers and builders have forgotten many of the elements that caravan builders have employed for weight reduction and low center of gravity.

Having worked professionally to develop recycled building materials, I came to realize that the roof is the most challenging part of a structure. Walls and floors are easy, but finding a suitable light weight material strong enough to span the structure, shed rain, snow, sun and wind for decades, is where the most strength to weight is critical for a roadworthy tiny house.

I had started building a platform floor for another boat trailer, with the idea of building a plywood structure on top of the floor. Mulling over the possibilities of what to do with the boat hull, it struck me that, stripped of the deck and motor, this would make a great basis for a weather proof roof, that could easily be hoisted on pillars and have a fold up set of walls stowed beneath it for transit.

Design Features:

At Home:

Full size tiny house with 8 by 20 foot floor space, 10 foot ceilings and optional pop out sides. The boat trailer frame is covered with 5/8” plywood with a few support members added to the frame to mount the four telescoping steel tubing pillars at the corners. The steel sockets welded onto the trailer frame provide both the uprights and secure adjustable foot pads for stability. The uprights provide the means for elevating the inverted boat hull and its addition of a skirt to bring the coverage beyond the edges of the walls. The lowest 2 feet of the edges are constructed of plywood with an angle iron railing, which provides the anchor point for the four walls to hinge on. the walls I am envisioning would be some kind of laminate with a weather proof skin and some kind of fire proof insulation and inner skin.

On the Road. The walls are tilted down, the boat lowered and the uprights and foot pads stowed. The goal of the new design is to keep the weight and low center of gravity as close as possible to the original boat parameters. This will be enabled in part because the outboard, upper deck, seats and fuel storage can be left behind, to compensate for the added weight of the plywood, steel tubing and wall materials. At best I hope to equal the weight or not exceed the load rating of the axle and tires, at worst, a heavier axle or adding one may be required.

Windows by: Milos Jovanovic Lonely Cat

Step 2: The Model:

Rather than just start building and see what happened , I decided to build a scale model. I chose not to do this in CAD as the tiny model seemed much more fun. My mentor friend Tarras K’s admonition is wise to follow, “When dealing with a new process, start with a small sample batch to make sure it goes well” So following my advice to makers and inventors, “if you can buy any parts “off the shelf” don’t waste time making them. So my model started with a purchase of a toy boat and trailer the most similar to the target boat.

The approximatly 20/1 scale boat and trailer I started with was from Cabela's called Bass Pro and about $20

This way I could lay out all the basic 3 dimensional realities that I may not be able to imagine. And make changes easily and quickly.

Materials: Toy plastic boat and trailer that looks like your boat combo. Cardboard, small plastic wire and small machine screws and nuts for fastening. Tape and glue. scissors razor knife. Telescoping K & S brass Hobby tubing. I used this size as I had it, round will work equally well for the model. Solder, torch type lighter, calipers.

Step 3: Transformation:

Starting in the Transit Mode.

The boat and roof extension are unsecured from the lower box.

The four pillars and foot jacks are installed at the corners.

Through pulleys and ropes, the boat is hoisted to the upper location and secured.

The end walls are raised and secured, then the side walls.

lastly the pop-out side is folded out to finish transforming into the tiny house.

Returning to Transit Mode simply reverses the process.

Step 4: The Dream Continues

I have most of the materials for the full size build phase, I have a trailer and all the plywood decking prepared.

When spring comes, I plan on resuming the actual build, and will provide details as they emerge.

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